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Socceroos star Tim Cahill relived his 2006 World Cup heroics with two second half goals against Japan to ensure Australia ended their qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010 in triumph. 

Australia won 2-1 at the MCG on Wednesday night, meaning they went unbeaten through the eight games of their final phase of qualifying and stayed ahead of Japan at the top of their group to earn Asian bragging rights.

Cahill, who scored the first two goals in Australia’s World Cup history to spark a famous 3-1 comeback victory over Japan in Germany in 2006, was again the shining light for the Socceroos against the Blue Samurai.

While both sides were already guaranteed World Cup qualification before Wednesday night’s match, Cahill’s second half heroics at least gave an MCG crowd of 69,238 plenty to cheer about.

There had been precious few moments for the green and gold army to get excited about before the break, as Australia continued the effective but unadventurous style that had served them well previously in the campaign.

Their one real chance of the first half came in the 10th minute, when Cahill ran onto a long ball in the box.

His left foot shot was not hit with enough venom to trouble goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki, who blocked it away.

But the rebound ended up with Mile Sterjovski, whose much more powerful shot required a brilliant reflex move by the `keeper to deflect it over the crossbar.

Cahill had another chance from the resultant corner, with a header from the box, but was wide of the target.

Japan did most of most of the attacking for the rest of the half and eventually opened the scoring through Tulio Tanaka in the 40th minute.

Tanaka made a well-timed run into the middle of the box from a corner kick and leapt over Cahill to head it home.

It broke a seven-game streak of clean sheets for Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who had spent his previous 710 minutes in goal without conceding.

But the rare blot on their defensive copybook stirred the Socceroos into life after break and they attacked constantly in the opening stages of the second half.

It took a brilliant Cahill header to level the scores in the 59th minute.

He produced a huge leap above two Japanese defenders at the left side of the box to connect with a long-range Vince Grella free kick and head it into the right side of the net.

The goal seemed to inspire Cahill to press even harder for the winner, getting onto the end of several promising attacking moves in the following minutes.

He eventually gave the Socceroos the lead in the 76th minute, when a Nicky Carle corner kick from the right side floated over a pack of players in the box.

Cahill, lurking at the back, got enough of his right leg to the ball to send it home and lift the crowd to their feet.

It was his 16th goal in 33 internationals and he was later given a huge ovation as he walked to the bench in the 86th minute, having once again lifted Australia to a comeback victory over Japan.

But, asked after the match about his scoring record against Japan, Cahill would only speak about the Melbourne crowd, a possible snub to the media who have criticised the Socceroos’ playing style.

“I’d just like to thank the crowd, the lads, a great turnout in Melbourne, I’m so proud to be here, so proud to play tonight so I think the credit just goes to the crowd, you were brilliant,” he said.

“This is a step forward for us, it’s great to finish top of the group.”

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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